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Planning and design guidelines for licensed child care centres

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Ontario Ministry of Education
government document
Publication Date: 
22 Apr 2022

Excerpts from introduction

This document, Planning and Design Guidelines for Licensed Child Care Centres (the “design guidelines”), provides provincially focused information on the planning, design, construction, renovation and maintenance of licensed child care centres.

These guidelines are intended to support the creation of high-quality, affordable and inclusive child care centres that are:

● child and family-centred;

● environmentally safe and secure;

● culturally relevant;

● supportive of children’s learning, development and well-being;

● aesthetically pleasing;

● functional in their design; and

● cost-effective to operate.

Designing a licensed child care centre is a complex task.The physical environment, or physical space, of a licensed child care centre is the context in which learning takes place. It should mirror the ideas, values, attitudes and cultures of those who share the space. The physical environment has the potential to stimulate children’s growth, development and creativity; however, if it is not thoughtfully designed, it may also limit their opportunities for learning and development. Children thrive in indoor and outdoor spaces that invite them to investigate, imagine, think, create and make meaning. Well-designed spaces are welcoming, engaging and flexible. They foster meaningful exploration, play and inquiry and provide safe, supported opportunities for risk taking and problem solving. From the aesthetics of the space, to the type of furnishings and materials available to the organization of time, the physical space communicates a powerful message and contributes to shaping the actions that can be taken within it. 

Learning and development happen within the context of relationships among children, families, educators and their environments. Inclusive environments are designed and built with the physical, emotional and cultural needs of children and families in mind. These environments support children’s well-being, learning and development, including their growing autonomy and independence, leading to less challenging behaviours and more engaged exploration. In well-designed environments, staff are able to focus more fully on observing and interacting with children, and on extending children’s learning and development in meaningful ways. The design guidelines are helpful in facilitating the development of supportive learning environments at all stages, from site selection and the creation of architectural drawings, to active construction and the development of aesthetically pleasing spaces – and even during ongoing operation and renovation.